Despite the frigid weather that recently swept across the United States, gardeners are busily planning for the growing season. In the Adirondacks, the stakes are high for gardeners; a shorter growing season is made more urgent by frequent flea beetle attacks. The purpose of this article is to discuss these insects, share information about control measures, and reflect on one potentially positive aspect of living with these insects.
As the old saying goes, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” During this transition, overwintering insects begin to reanimate. One insect that will soon regain mobility is the woolly bear, Pyrrharctia isabella Smith (Lepidoptera: Erebidae). The life cycle of this insect is complex, but if it is properly understood, then lepidopterists will have a much better chance of seeing one in the wild.
The woolly bear overwinters as a larva. As the temperature gets cooler, the woolly bear larva will bask in the sun, using its dark coloration to gather heat. When the autumnal temperatures drop too low for basking to be sufficient, woolly bears ensconce themselves in leafy detritus. Snowfall serves to further insulate the moth from biting winter winds. Woolly bears are further protected by the chemical glycerol, which is produced by their bodies to protect them from extreme cold. This chemical is found in some antifreeze brands, and can be used in cars. Through strategic selection of overwintering sites and the use of glycerol, the woolly bear can survive temperatures as low as -60 oF.
Their survival can be put at risk if they are brought out of dormancy by unseasonal warmth, because they stop producing the chemicals necessary to protect themselves. Therefore, if a woolly bear is encountered in the wintertime, it is recommended that nature enthusiasts leave it alone.
Lady beetles may appear cute to the human eye, but in the insect world, they are fearsome predators. Considered by farmers to be a helpful pest control tool, lady beetles are welcome neighbors in Adirondack gardening communities. Nonetheless, there are controversial aspects surrounding these voracious insects. This article will describe the biology and taxonomy of the lady beetles, then discuss the multifaceted roles they play in both human and insect interactions.
Many New Yorkers are familiar with the red, round, and shiny lady beetles, but they may not be aware of the reason why they have their unusual name. In the 1690’s, this insect was named after the Virgin Mary, the “lady” that British farmers would pray to when their crops were afflicted by pests. The red coloration of the insect’s hardened outer wings, known as elytra, reminded them of the red cloak commonly worn by Mary in artwork of the time. In fact, all lady beetles are categorized in the family Coccinellidae, a term drawing its origins from the Latin coccinus, meaning “scarlet.” Many lady beetles are red; however, some are yellow, black, orange, pink, and/or white.
Some of us ride out the pandemic by basking in the pale glow of another Netflix binge. Insects play background roles in many of our favorite shows; therefore, my fellow couch surfers might be familiar with closed-caption terms like “insects trilling,” or “insects buzzing.”
While these phrases might capture the qualitative experience of arthropod auditory activities, they overlook the specificity of each message. Here in the Adirondacks, katydids are insects that can be heard producing tailor-made soundtracks through the summer into early fall. This article will describe the characteristics of katydids, explore the different types of songs produced by Adirondack katydids, and explain the impact these songs have on the local ecosystem.
For those of us who don’t ice fish or ski, the best part of winter in northern New York is the lack of mosquitoes. Thick blankets of snow muffle the whizzing fervor of our least welcome trail partners, but not all insects go dormant in the winter months. The family of insects known as ground beetles contains species that remain active throughout the year.
According to northern New York homeowners, there are three bug species that refuse to follow the social distancing guidelines. Six-legged interlopers are occupying residences and gardens en masse this holiday season. The purpose of this article is to describe the bugs, and discuss control strategies for each insect.
For cranberry farmers, autumn brings falling leaves and rising hopes. Family-owned operations, such as Deer River Cranberry Farm in Brasher Falls, cultivate their vines in meticulously manicured marshes. Droplets descended from irrigation spigots glisten atop entangled mats of waxy, evergreen vines, forming a coruscant carpet. Harvest season begins in mid-September, and is well underway by early November.
Most cranberry varieties produce fruit every other year. To harvest the crop, some farmers flood their typically well-drained bogs. The hollow, red berries rise above their short canopy. Collecting tools include buoyed nets, or water reels, which corral fruit for a mechanical harvester. Berries are then sent careening down a series of steps, with the roundest, plumpest, highest quality fruit tumbling the farthest.
The fierce, firetruck red aesthetic of a Demoranville berry contrasts sharply with the mottled, red-and-white complexion of a Mullica Queen, but both must pass the test. Wizened, infested, or misshapen products that aren’t firm enough to sufficiently bounce will be discarded, along with the farmer’s hope for an unblemished crop.
With over 350,000 described species, the beetles are insects with many different attributes. The scientific name for the beetles, Coleoptera, is based on the Greek word “koleopteros,” meaning sheathed wing. Beetles in the Adirondack region show that this sheath can take a variety of forms.
The outer pair of wings located on a beetle is known as the elytra. For the ironclad beetles, the elytra are so hard that some of these specimens can resist being run over by cars. Ironclad beetles native to New York tend to be small, brown denizens of rotting trees. The drab hardness of ironclad beetles contrasts sharply with the flexible, flashy wings found on net-winged beetles. There are several species of net-winged beetles in New York, including the banded net-winged beetle Calopteron discrepans Newman (Coleoptera: Lycidae), the reticulated net-winged beetle Calopteron reticulatum Fabricius (Coleoptera, Lycidae), and the end band net-winged beetle Calopteron terminale Say (Coleoptera, Lycidae), which is shown in the picture. The transverse depression across the wings, combined with the equal heights of its wing ridges, are the diagnostic features of the end band net-winged beetle.